For most fans of a professional sports team, the word lends little to no reaction. For the few fans who have had the unfortunate experience of their favorite team moving or potentially moving, the word can oftentimes be unnerving. For many people, myself included, sports is a distraction, a way to escape the down times in life.
The relocation of a professional sports team in any of North America's major sports is a rarity. Arena/stadium issues led the Houston Oilers and Seattle Supersonics to relocate to Nashville (1997) and Oklahoma City (2008), respectively, while a disinterested ownership group led to the relocation of the Montreal Expos to Washington D.C. (2004) and now, Atlanta to Winnipeg.
I've always wondered how I would react to the relocation of an NHL team. I've been a Preds fan since 1999, and other than Columbus and Minnesota joining the league as expansion teams in 2000, the teams and structure of the NHL has pretty much stayed the same for as long as I've been a fan. There were talks of Nashville relocating in 2007, and there have been ongoing discussions for the past couple years about possibly moving Phoenix, with whispers of moving Atlanta popping up every now and then. Now that the thought has become a reality, and I've given myself some time to digest what the heck is going on, I want to offer up a few thoughts.
Being a Tennessean for my entire life has led me to love everything about the South. Hockey is no different, and I've always carried optimism that hockey could one day take off in this region. With Atlanta being Nashville's closest opponent geographically, I have friends who, for whatever reason, ditched the Preds to become fans of a team three hours south. I spoke with a few of them shortly after the announcement, and they were extremely disappointed and shocked, as they were not prepared for something of this magnitude to occur so quickly. I was also fortunate to be in attendance when the Preds visited Atlanta back in December, and the fans that I met seemed very knowledgeable and passionate about their team, despite the unstable ownership and small fanbase.
I feel so sorry for the fans in Atlanta, and wouldn't wish a circumstance such as this on any fan of any team. This event only makes me more thankful for the ownership group and loyal fans that stepped up to keep the Preds in Nashville. Still, a question crossed my mind that led to the writing of this post...
What if the Nashville Predators had not existed after the 2007 season?
For me, as much into hockey as I was at the time, I'm not sure I would've handled losing the Preds well enough to continue being a fan. As I mentioned in my very first post, I didn't consider myself a diehard until late in the 2008 season thanks to the Washington Capitals, and had Nashville not existed in 2008, I'm not so sure I would've ended up going to the game that escalated my love for hockey. Still, time heals all wounds, so I may have at one point down the road hopped on the bandwagon of another Southern-based team. Thank goodness I'll never have to go through that experience.
To those reading, I'm wondering what your reaction is to the question I posed above. Would you have become a fan of another team, and if so, where? Would you have become a fan in the first place had the Preds relocated? Would you have ditched hockey altogether? Feel free to sound off in the comments below (I've had a grand total of TWO in the time this blog has existed, so getting at least to that number would be nice), or ponder the question throughout the day as we begin another long summer day, one step closer to the start of another season.
Thanks for reading!